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Best DSLR cameras

Best DSLR camera: Image shows man using DSLR next to lake
(Image credit: Getty)

The best DSLR cameras are like gold dust to photographers. They became the most popular type of digital camera back in the early to mid-2000s. The debate now exists between DSLR cameras v mirrorless cameras and that debate is relentless. The smaller and lighter mirrorless cameras are slowly overtaking in popularity and becoming the preferred option. This doesn't mean we should disregard the heritage and reliability of DSLRs though, and they are definitely not redundant regardless of whether beginners or professional photographers are looking for a new shooting companion. The best DSLR cameras still rank highly in our best cameras for astrophotography guide, so we still believe they can still hold their own, especially in this field.

DSLR cameras are typically a fraction larger and heavier than other types of cameras but they aren't as bulky and obnoxious as they once were or at least perceived to be so don’t let this put you off. Owning one of the best DSLR cameras will help to give you the photography results you want, regardless of experience or ability.

You can still check out our round-up of the best beginner cameras if this is your first camera, or check out our best camera deals guide to see if you can grab a bargain. We like DSLRs a lot and if you want to see the rundown of the best DSLR cameras then read on. If you decide mirrorless is more your thing, then look at our best mirrorless cameras guide instead. 

Best overall DSLR

Nikon D850 camera body

(Image credit: Nikon)
A complete powerhouse of a DSLR that outcompetes plenty of modern mirrorless cameras

Specifications

Sensor details: 35.9 mm x 23.9 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 45.7MP
Lens mount: F-mount FX
Screen details: 3.2” LCD, 2359K dots
Max burst speed: 9FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD

Reasons to buy

+
Insane stills resolution
+
Blisteringly fast autofocus 

Reasons to avoid

-
Face AF not as sophisticated as eye AF
-
9FPS only possible with MB-D18 battery pack 

The D850 is a bold step up from the D780, offering 45.7MP still photos at up to 9FPS (albeit only when using a dedicated battery grip). It's not as high as some of the other cameras on this list, but one must bear in mind that this is 9FPS of full-resolution stills images at 45.7MP — these images are ginormous!

If you're someone who needs likes to switch between capturing stills and shooting video, the D850 is worth a serious look as it also shoots in 4K UHD. What's more, this camera is extensively weather sealed, and even the battery grip is protected from dust and water. The Nikon D850 is a camera you can take anywhere, getting maximum results without fretting about the elements.

Best for hybrid photographers

Nikon D780

(Image credit: Nikon)
This lowlight and video monster is perfect for hybrid professional shooters that need to keep up with the action

Specifications

Sensor details: 35.9 mm x 23.9 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 24.5MP
Lens mount: F-mount FX
Screen details: 3.2” LCD, 2359K dots
Max burst speed: 12FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD

Reasons to buy

+
High 12FPS burst speed
+
Astounding results in low light and astro
+
Large, detailed rear LCD monitor 

Reasons to avoid

-
Middling stills resolution 
-
Easy to accidentally lock controls

Another Nikon here, superseding the magnificent D750, the Nikon D780. It builds on its predecessor's specs and features a more detailed rear screen with a massive 2359K dots and a huge maximum burst speed of 12FPS. This makes it an ideal DSLR for wildlife, sports and action photography. It shoots 4K UHD video with 10-bit N-log recording and 12 stops of dynamic range.

A lowlight master, this model can expand the ISO range to a ridiculous 204800, and the noise reduction algorithms are impeccable at keeping the images clean. In addition, its lowlight-specific autofocus ability can drop the camera's autofocus range for accurate AF as low as -7EV when live view is activated. Especially useful for astrophotography.

Best for action photography

Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS 90D

This APS-C DSLR shoots fast and with exquisite detail making it perfect for sports or action

Specifications

Sensor details: 22.3mm x 14.8mm CMOS
Megapixels: 32.5MP
Lens mount: EF, EF-S
Screen details: 3” LCD, 1040K dots
Max burst speed: 10FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning all-round stills and video performance 
+
Analogue lovers will appreciate optical viewfinder 

Reasons to avoid

-
Buffer quite slow for 10FPS 
-
Only 4K UHD video resolution 

Crop sensor DSLRs benefit from the perceived extra zoom afforded by the 1.5/1.6x effective crop. That’s exactly where Canon excels with this powerhouse of a camera. The longer effective focal length and fast 10FPS burst speed are complemented by a huge 32.5MP CMOS image sensor.

It would be nice to see 4K DCI on this camera but 4K UHD more than keeps up with the rest of its class and is suitable for most shooters. A 220,000 RGB and IR metering sensor powers the iTR focus tracking, allowing you to keep fast-moving subjects sharp even when you’re moving the camera.

Best for durability and speed

Canon 5D Mark IV

(Image credit: Canon)
A pro-level powerhouse, this is the best choice for any working photographers who need reliability and speed

Specifications

Sensor details: 36 x 24 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 30.4MP
Lens mount: EF (excludes EF-S, EF-M lenses)
Screen details: 3.2” LCD 1620K dots
Max burst speed: 7FPS
Max video resolution: 4K DCI

Reasons to buy

+
Pro-level image quality
+
Excellent autofocusing system 

Reasons to avoid

-
Too expensive for beginners
-
Big and heavy full frame camera 

Despite being released over five years ago, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is still the chosen tool of many professionals. It is a must for its quality alone as it captures 30.4MP stills and shoots in 4K DCI video for cinema-like movie quality.

A large, detailed rear screen complements the bright optical viewfinder, and peripherals can be attached with USB 3.0, HDMI out, and headphone outputs. It also features a microphone input, a flash connection port, and WiFi and NFC technology to facilitate wireless shooting and easy image sharing.

Best rugged option

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

(Image credit: Canon)
A solid camera with good weathering sealing for use in inclement weather

Specifications

Sensor details: 35.9 x 24.0 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: EF (excludes EF-S, EF-M lenses)
Screen details: 3” LCD, 1040K dots
Max burst speed: 6.5FPS
Max video resolution: Full HD

Reasons to buy

+
Small form factor for full frame
+
Good Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity 

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacking 4K video recording
-
Dynamic range could be better 

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a benchmark DSLR for Canon. It sits perfectly between affordable entry-level models and the higher-priced professional models. Photographers who like to push the limits of the entry-level versions can exploit the integrated weather and dust sealing features and take advantage of slightly elevated, but not exceptional burst shoot speeds of up to 6.5FPS.

The Dual Pixel CMOS AF smoothly adjusts focus when shooting video and there’s a five-axis digital image stabilization to aid handheld shooting. It can capture 4K time-lapses thanks to the 26.2MP image resolution but unfortunately, movie resolution tops out at 1920 x 1080/60p which is the only real letdown to an otherwise great intermediate-level camera.

Best for intermediate photographers

Nikon D7500

(Image credit: Nikon)
This flagship DX Nikon DSLR shoots video and stills equally brilliantly

Specifications

Sensor details: 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Lens mount: F-mount DX
Screen details: 3.2” LCD, 922K dots
Max burst speed: 8FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD

Reasons to buy

+
Inexpensive crop sensor DSLR body
+
Wide ISO sensitivity range 

Reasons to avoid

-
Low stills resolution
-
Tilting rear screen sometimes restrictive 

Engineered for photographers who want to take their photography to the next level, the D7500 is Nikon’s flagship DX (crop sensor) camera body. It has a large, 3.2” rear tilting LCD, making it helpful when shooting at awkward shooting angles. It’s also a touchscreen which makes composing and shooting with as few clicks as possible a breeze.

It’s suitable for some sports and wildlife photography thanks to the 8FPS maximum burst speed and the 20.9MP CMOS image sensor is more than enough to shoot 4K UHD video. This camera is protected from the elements as its all-around weather sealing prevents water and dust ingress.

Best for beginners

Canon EOS Rebel SL3

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS Rebel SL3/ Canon EOS 250D

A high quality APS-C image sensor and small form factor make this an ideal camera for beginners

Specifications

Sensor details: 22.3 mm x 14.9 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 24.1MP
Lens mount: EF and EF-S mount
Screen details: 3” LCD, 1040K dots
Max burst speed: 5FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD

Reasons to buy

+
Good stills and video resolution
+
Billed as world’s lightest DSLR with movable screen 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited AF points when using optical viewfinder
-
Maximum burst speed is average 

While there are certainly cheaper entry-level crop sensor cameras available, the tiny Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / 250D is the best of the bunch with a 24.1MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 image processor that produces vivid, minimal noise photos. Disappointingly though, there are only nine autofocus points across the viewfinder, however, engaging the live view option on the rear screen improves this to 143 via camera automatic selection.

This Canon also has a -4EV autofocus working range and a maximum expanded ISO sensitivity of 51200, it's quite a handy camera in low light conditions, especially if you pair it with a lens with built-in image stabilization.

Best entry-level Nikon

Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Nikon)
A solid entry-level Nikon for beginners provides detailed images and Full HD movie recording

Specifications

Sensor details: 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: F-mount DX
Screen details: 3” LCD, 921K dots
Max burst speed: 5FPS
Max video resolution: Full HD

Reasons to buy

+
Small and lightweight design
+
Inexpensive solution for beginners 

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited to Full HD video resolution
-
Fixed rear screen is limiting 

Nikon’s cheapest DSLR, the D3500, is comfortable to hold, with a solid, deep grip that looks and feels professional. Its APS-C CMOS sensor kicks out a generous 24.2MP stills resolution which is impressive for this entry-level beauty.

While movie recording is limited to Full HD at 60FPS, the dynamic range is good and the rear 3-inch LCD is clear and bright with 921K dots providing ample detail. Paired with one of the myriad DX zoom lenses, especially one that has Vibration Reduction, anyone new to photography should be able to get great sharp snaps without any issues.

Summary

From stand-out entry-level cameras that are perfect for the budget-conscious or beginner photographer, to high-end enthusiasts and professionals, the list above rounds up the very best DSLRs you can buy today.

Pay close attention to your requirements and ensure you seek out a camera to suit your current and future needs. Whether that is high resolution stills imaging, a wide dynamic range, or crisp 4K video recording. It is equally important to remember that the range of lens choice is crucially important when choosing any interchangeable lens camera so do take a look at the scope of lenses available for your favorite camera before purchasing it.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in Frome, UK. He won a Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19, and was named Digital Photographer of the Year by the Mammal Society Photographer of the Year Awards in 2014. Jason is a Masters graduate and has a wealth of academic and real-world experience in a variety of photographic disciplines from astrophotography and wildlife to fashion and portraiture. 

With contributions from